We often make “to-do” lists, but have you ever made a “don’t” list? The truth is, we simply can’t do it all. We can’t try to juggle a handful of balls and keep them in the air indefinitely! I want to have time to sit on the couch and read a book to my kids, to go on an evening walk with my husband, or to enjoy a perfect day with my kids on the front lawn. So I started thinking about ways I can slim down my schedule—things I am not going to do this year, and I ended up writing my own “don’t” list. By identifying and acknowledging what I am choosing not to focus on at this time in my life, I was able to get rid of some of the guilt we usually carry around as mothers for not being able to do it all. For this season of my life, here is my personal “I don’t” list:
1.I am not going to have a regular volunteer day in my kids’ classrooms.
Initially I felt guilty about this. Would I be a bad mother for not spending time regularly volunteering in each classroom? But I have little kids at home who also need me. In reality, I see the principal, teachers, and staff regularly when I’m taking my older kids to school or when I’m or picking them up. I attend programs, parties, and other events. I help my kids with their homework every night and find opportunities to teach at home. I’m there when they leave and there when they come home so I can hear about their days and encourage them. For many years I have volunteered in their classrooms regularly, but I decided this year that I just need to be home. I need to enjoy the time I have with my little ones while they are still at home. And I need to keep a handle on my house and everything else going on in our lives so that when my older kids are home, I can focus on them.
2. I don’t have a regular exercise time.
Don’t get me wrong: I think it would be best to get up early every morning to exercise before the kids get up. But my reality just doesn’t make that possible every day. I can’t always fit a long workout in my daily schedule, so rather than the all-or-nothing approach to exercise, I am taking the do-something approach for this point in my life. If the weather is perfect, I take my two youngest in the double stroller and we go for a long walk. Other days I hit the treadmill while the kids play with their toys, or work on some weights before I go to bed. I always feel better when I do something even if I don’t have a regular exercise time.
3. I don’t wear the coolest clothes.
I have come to grips with the fact that I am a mother, and for me, this has affected my wardrobe. Having seven children has widened my hips a bit, and the truth is I don’t have time to wander the mall looking for the perfect outfit. Recently I ran out the door for my son’s Cub Scout pack meeting as I was eating a peach. The peach was so juicy that juice ran down the front of my shirt (the same shirt I wore while mowing the lawn that morning). I wiped my shirt off with a wet rag, threw on a cardigan and a necklace to distract from the large wet spot, and enjoyed a lovely evening at pack meeting. I had to laugh when a friend commented on my lovely outfit and how I always look so “put together”!
4. I don’t do much decorating for holidays.
In college I majored in interior design. If anyone can appreciate beautiful holiday decor, I can! I love those people that decorate their porches with hay and corn stalks for Halloween and completely transform their homes for Christmas. I love the freshness of Easter decor in the spring and a beautiful mantel ready for St. Patrick’s Day. When it comes to holidays, it isn’t that I am a Scrooge: for Valentine’s Day, I am helping to make several adorable boxes and prepare valentines for many different kids; for Halloween I have costumes to get ready; and with so many wonderful little people in our home, extra clutter causes me stress. So I change the wreath on the front door seasonally and I hang a cute banner on the mantel—and then I focus on people and traditions. Keeping decor simple just works for me at this stage of my life!
5. I don’t entertain.
Before I had children I dreamed of fancy dinner parties and centerpieces. Now that I have seven busy children, I don’t use tablecloths or have endless parties at our house. In fact, on the rare occasion when we do invite someone over, I usually use paper plates.
My “don’t” list may be different next year, but for now I am content with what I don’t do. My “don’t” list empowers me to feel joy in the little everyday moments. It allows me to save my strength and energy for the things that matter most to me. At another season in my life, I will volunteer more, look fabulous in a perfect outfit with coordinating high heels, and host amazing dinner parties. But for now I will recognize that “moments are the molecules that make up eternity” (Neal A. Maxwell). I want each moment to count for what matters most.
QUESTION: A lot of moms feel guilty about not being able to do it all. What do you feel guilty about?
CHALLENGE: Write your own “don’t” list. Think about things that are important to you at this stage of life and recognize what things you “don’t” need to do right now.
Edited by Cathryn Matheson and Amanda Lewis.
Image from Shutterstock with graphics by Anna Jenkins.